What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a chronic condition where tissues similar to the lining of the uterus (endometrial tissue) starts to grow outside the uterus, in areas such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes, pelvis, abdominal cavity, lungs, bowels and even the brain. It affects 1 in 10 women and girls of reproductive age across the globe. It is also commonly associated with severe pain, infertility, decreased productivity and reduced quality of life.
Stages of Endometriosis
There are different ways to measure Endometriosis. However, according to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), Endometriosis can be classified into four stages.
It is important to note that a woman’s stage of Endometriosis does not directly correlate with her level of pain. Instead, a classified Stage of Endometriosis relates to the location, amount, depth and size of the endometrial tissue. Therefore, a woman with Stage I Endometriosis may report significantly more pain to her doctor than someone with Stage IV Endometriosis.
As a guide, the Stages of Endometriosis are as follows:
Stage I – Minimal Endometriosis characterized by few implants
Stage II – Mild Endometriosis with deeper implants and some scar tissue
Stage III – Moderate Endometriosis with many deep implants, small cysts and adhesions
Stage IV – Severe Endometriosis with many deep implants, large cysts and thick adhesions
Symptoms associated with Endometriosis
Women with Endometriosis may experience the following symptoms:
Painful periods (dysmenorrhea) – Including pelvic, lower back and abdominal pain, as well as cramping, either before, during or after menstrual periods
Pain with intercourse – Including pain before or after sexual intercourse
Pain with bowel movements or urination – Including painful or irritable bowel movements, as well as pain upon urination
Excessive bleeding – Including occasional heavy menstrual periods or bleeding between periods (intermenstrual bleeding)
Other symptoms – Including nausea, diarrhea or constipation, chronic fatigue and bloating during menstrual periods, and
If you experience several of these symptoms and have a reduced quality of life, it may be time to talk to your doctor about Endometriosis. Your doctor may follow up with questions about your symptoms, in addition to suggesting one of the following to help make a diagnosis:
Imaging test such as an ultrasound or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
To date, there has been no reported cure for Endometriosis. However, there are treatments that can help women and girls cope with their symptoms. Available treatments include medication (e.g. painkillers), hormone therapy, surgery, fertility treatment, dietary changes (e.g. supplements, stricter diet) and lifestyle changes (e.g. heat application, yoga, pelvic floor exercises, meditation). Treatment options are dependent on several factors. Notwithstanding, the key to managing symptoms with Endometriosis is finding what works best for YOU!
Written by Ms. Kimmette Robertson